Washington slowed the racehorse Milwaukee Bucks to Bullets' speed last night and, as a result, had a surprisingly easy time, winning, 98-89, before 9,628 at Capital Centre.
The bucks entered the game as the best road team in the National Basketball Association, having won 12 of 13, 11 straight, away from Milwaukee Arena. They left Capital Centre sore and humbled.
The bullets took them out of their normally fluid offense and limited them to their lowest point production of the season.
The Bullets got a number of big performances. Elvin Hayes shook off the pain of a sore knee and ignited a 10-0 spurt that put the Bullets on top by five points early in the second period -- and, although the Bucks did tie the score early in the final quarter, they never could take the lead.
Rookie Carlos Terry had a big fourth period with three assists and two baskets when the Bullets were fighting off the Bucks' last challenge.
The key Bullet all night, however, was Wes Unseld.
He said he was tired before the game, but he made eight of 10 shots and four of four free throws en route to a season-high 20 points. He also had a game-high 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and blocked a shot.
And he did the job at the other end of the floor, limiting Bob Lanier to 13 points and one assist. Much of Milwaukee's offense revolves around Lanier, but Unseld wouldn't let him get the position he wanted, so Lanier never was in the flow and the Bucks stalled.
Unseld and Lanier have had some classic duels over their careers and Lanier said Unseld "is the same player he always was. He gets away with murder: pushing, shoving, holding, you name it. The only difference is he doesn't shoot as much as he used to."
The Bucks were battered before the game began and the Bullets showed them no mercy. Marques Johnson was knocked onto his back by Unseld in the first period and had to be helped to the bench. He finished with 19 points, but wasn't as effective as usual.
Brian Winters missed Friday's game against Atlanta with a stiff neck and was accidentally elbowed in the face by Hayes, took only two shots and missed them.
The Bullets blew a number of chances to bury the Bucks early and had only a three-point lead, at 81-78, with 8:42 to play.
A 9-0 spurt led by Hayes, Terry and Unseld put the game away, though.
Hayes started the spurt with a layup and, after Marques Johnson missed, made one of two free throws after he was fouled in the backcourt by Johnson.
Junior Bridgeman next missed a jumper, which set up the play of the night by Terry. He beat two Bucks to a loose ball by diving under them, then, before they could tie him up, squirmed away and passed to an all-alone Greg Ballad under the basket. Ballard's layup gave the Bullets an 86-78 lead. After Quinn Buckner missed a shot, Terry made two free throws for a 10-point lead. Buckner missed again and Terry fed Unseld for a jumper.
"There were times we didn't execute on the break and so we blew some chances to make it easy," Coach Gene Shue said. "But we played smart and hit the shots when we had to."
This contest concluded a rough, three games in three nights stetch in which the Bullets won two to improve their record to 10-14.